The shampoo aisle scares me the most

coffee at Pint and Plow in Kerrville

There’s an echeveria succulent on my table at Pint & Plow. Monday morning… a day I actually like even on a workday, which this is not. I gave myself the day off, since I accomplished a work goal last night after a long couple weeks. (“Accomplished.” Seems a dissonant word for a blog about coffee and, soon enough, getting one’s money’s worth at H-E-B using a coupon for Hill Country Essentials paper products. Oh yes, Dear Reader, we are indeed going there. I know you want to, because I know all three of you quite well.)

So: coupons.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the “big H-E-B” on Main Street. I say “big,” because we have two H-E-B stores in Kerrville. The other is on Sidney Baker South, and it used to be an Albertson’s. But H-E-B bought it out, because H-E-B in Texas is to Albertson’s what In-N-Out Burger in L.A. is to Whataburger. (Whataburger is not in L.A., as you probably know. Closest it gets is Phoenix, where there are 13. There are only 16 In-N-Out Burgers in the same area.)

So I’m in H-E-B yesterday — good grief, I wish I didn’t have to do that shift-shift-shift thing when I use the capital H, E, and B and the en-dashes in between, but WordPress doesn’t use predictive text to fill in the store name the way my iPhone does. (H-E-B: please buy WordPress. We know you already own Apple.) I’m in heb yesterday, near the end of my shopping list in Aisle 22, where paper products are, and soon to be in shampoos. Let me tell you, Dear Reader, of all the aisles and products in H-E-B, it is the shampoo aisle that most intimidates me. I am less intimidated by parking my cart in Aisle 39 so I can use the nearby restroom. If you don’t know Aisle 39, it’s where the “Maximum Absorbency Underpads” are. IYKYK, as those under 30 say, and since I turn 60 in May, the last thing I want is to return to my cart and find Schreiner College soccer players snickering at me for being next to the underpads. All in due time, my meal-plan friends.

But with 1,454 different shampoo-related items — ranging in price from “worth the cost of what I put in my hair for literally only nine seconds and then wash down the drain” to “Should I buy shampoo or pay off my student loans?” — I opted for VO5, which cost $0.98.

Dear Reader, an iPhone can render the outdated symbol for “cents” when you hold down the “$” key and move your finger one slot to the right, but the MacBook Air keyboard does not, to my knowledge. When you hold down the “$” key on a Mac, it comes out “$$$$$$$$$.” It’s an indication that pennies are increasingly worthless, but the good news is saying, “Well, that’s my two cents’ worth” is increasingly accurate. Imagine when two cents was a lot of money. (People in Colonial America actually gave a damn what you had to say.)

I had not yet had to skim the bottom row of the shampoo aisle looking for products measured in cents and not dollars, and I was in front of the toilet paper and paper towels. I couldn’t remember which we needed; I knew it was one of them. And then I saw a yellow coupon hanging from one of those metal loops that look like they’ve been liberated from three-ring binders. It promised I’d get $2 off my cart if I bought $12 or more in Hill Country Essentials paper products. Well, I figured, we’ll surely need both of those at some point, so let’s go for it. And this brand of toilet paper is much higher quality than say, Scott 1000, which touts “1000 sheets per roll.” This is great marketing, because you need 500 sheets per bathroom visit. So when you buy a 12-pack for a family of five today, you’re headed back to H-E-B for another pack tomorrow at 2pm before school lets out.

I plucked a coupon and after running the shampoo gauntlet headed for checkout.

I had 22 items — more or less — because if there’s a doubt if I have 10 for the self-checkout or 15 for the Express lane, I will count and count again, because the last thing I want is for someone behind me to send me evil looks the way I do to them. As I always quote from the Good Book, “And ye shall surely judge those who are merely doing the best they can in line at H-E-B and expect that when they shall judge you, ye shall surely remind them loudly and clearly and in the presence of others ‘who’s the damned judge and Who is not’.” And attention H-E-B shoppers: doesn’t it make you slightly uncomfortable when the store employee roaming along the congested checkout area tells you to take your overstuffed cart down to the empty Express Lane to ease overall store traffic, and then you start unpacking, all the while worrying that someone with 14 items will show up behind you and you’ll have to use your well-rehearsed line, “Haha! The lady who works here sent me down here. Haha!” And they give you a slightly judgmental stare, so you actually quote for them your life verse.

There actually is a story about the coupon — about how the cashier didn’t ring it up and I was strolling away and noticed that my receipt didn’t show a deduction and by that time I was near customer service and they retrieved the coupon from the cashier and then, checking my receipt to make sure I had bought $12+ in Hill Country Essentials paper products, which I indeed had, handed me two dollars and 13 cents (for the tax) — but what I really want to say is that I just stepped away from the table with the echeveria succulent to use the men’s room and came back to find my computer still here.

It’s Texas after all, not New York City. And then I went to ask for “more” coffee and not “another” one.

Because Texas itself is a “more” kind of place.

Foxes vs. coyotes vs. werewolves

A friend of mine brought me two dozen eggs yesterday from her farm.

I learned that hens produce more eggs in warmer months than in colder ones — which stands to reason, unless you’re from new York City, where eggs are produced in air-conditioned grocery stores year-round and 24/7 — and with it getting warmer here lately — it’ll be in the 70s+ for the next ten days — the hens are doing more of their hen thing. (What do they actually do besides lay eggs? And doesn’t the verb “lay” conjure up only two nouns: bed and eggs? More New York questions that I share with only you three who are reading this.)

I happened to ask her about foxes, given their rather too-cozy relationship to hens — “cozy” as in being the “big spoon” to their little one until hunger overcomes them and spooning transitions to dining — and given my experiencing a mysterious sound the other night that Karen later determined was indeed a fox and not a werewolf. (I was not about to admit that I experienced horripilation — read the post HERE — over a fuzzy red dog that probably was a hundred yards away.)

My friend said that, yes, there were foxes, but a bigger issue was coyotes. We discussed the unique bark of a fox — my now having expertise in distinguishing a fox bark from a werewolf growl — and then she said that coyotes, too, have a unique bark: “They sound like a bunch of drunken frat boys,” and she played a video on her phone taken from her property where, indeed, the pack sounded like inebriated males with underdeveloped frontal cortices. Grinning, I concurred with her comparison, though my smile was only half-sincere since she was not aware that I, too, had sounded that way when I was in college, and I didn’t have a fraternity membership to blame for it.

Bobbing for apples near the United Nations

My friend John sent me a Facebook Messenger note earlier this week saying he was coming to Kerrville and would I be up for a late night or early coffee the next day. “Absolutely!” I replied. First thing I thought was, He’s not coming to Kerrville; he’s coming through Kerrville. Or near Kerrville. I was right, he was driving on I-10, which runs by Kerrville. Prepositions matter. They betray intent.

John was a grade school classmate at Trinity School in New York City. The two most vivid things I remembered about him were his nearly always smiling face and bubbly personality, and that he had a birthday party during 2nd grade where we got to bob for apples. Now, I’ve been to birthday parties later in life where we go paint-balling, and that can be loads of fun provided you’re wearing five pairs of sweatpants you don’t mind throwing out afterwards. But the worst thing that happens when you bob for apples is that you might get the collar wet on your Star Trek t-shirt.

He and I reconnected on Facebook a few years back and, as many did, he stayed connected after Tuesday, November 3, 2020, when — as you might remember — the country held an election. We did have an election that day; that is undisputed. What is also undisputed is that people had a dispute about what actually happened that day. And what is also undisputed is that some interpreted the dispute as treason and that those who disputed exactly what happened that day shouldn’t be allowed to fly on airplanes, which in a sense was all fine and good because no air carrier serves Fresca anymore and gas was still cheap on November 2, so I might as well drive wherever it was I wanted to go. (After all, I’d be driving through “fly-over country” anyway, and they have Fresca along the way.) The fact is that those of us who chatted it up before, on and after November 3 were having a “gay old time,” as the Flintstones theme song went. There were others who, too, were having a gay old time in the Fall of 2020, and many were themselves gay, or black, or gay and black, or Hispanic, or poor, or immigrants from Iran or Asia, or union members in Flint, Michigan. The main people who weren’t having a gay old time were straight married women in their 40s who wore yoga pants and drank matchas at Le Pain Quotidien on Manhattan’s Upper West Side after school drop-off and before walking over together to the 11 AM class at SoulCycle. They were not having a gay old time. Instead they were making pink pussy hats and marching down Fifth Avenue, as if The Met had projectile vomited Pepto Bismol toward Trump Tower. (By the way, pink pussy hats on eBay are trading 10:1 for vintage Star Trek t-shirts.)

pink pussy hat

So John and I re-connected some time before things got treacherous and stayed connected when they got downright expensive to drive and dangerous to have needles stuck in your arm ostensibly to make things less dangerous.

While in New York and until his father’s work brought them to California after his fourth grade year, he lived in 50 United Nations Plaza. It’s an apartment building nary a block uptown from the United Nations itself. It’s nice. There currently is a 3-bedroom, 3,000 square-foot condo up for sale for a cool $8.4 mill. And, yes, that’s almost $3,000/sq ft. That’s an abstract number. Let me contextualize it for you: when we moved from New York to Texas, we got three times the living space for half the cost. We also got a landlord here who doesn’t come over to fix a faulty toilet and tell you on his way out that you needed to clean the kitchen or it would attract roaches.

So the morning rolls around after a night during which John and his son did indeed stay in Kerrville, and he and I met for coffee at La Quinta Inn on Sidney Baker. My coffee was free, because he was a guest, and having arrived early I just helped myself. If I had so chose, I could have helped myself also to Fruit Loops, raisin bread toast or oatmeal. Which, if I’m hungry and in the area some other morning, I might just do. Because you totally could. Just smile at the receptionist as you pass like you had retrieved something from the car. In fact, that is exactly what you’d do in New York City if you needed a restroom: confidently walk into a hotel and ask anyone who works there where the bathroom is. Because the Starbucks in NYC have bathrooms open to customers only, if they have bathrooms at all. And the bathrooms that do exist have five digit codes that change every 30 seconds and require fingerprint verification. At least before COVID they did. Now it’s facial recognition.

We had coffee and chatted. John was still warm and bubbly and gracious as always and kept a big smile. He still hugs you when you say hi and again when you say bye.

In the end, he and I will have different lines on our foreheads.


SPECIAL NOTE: The editor is aware that this author’s content dips into an area that is political in nature and, therefore, possibly inflammatory. The author also told us this story, which may offset the scorn some of our readers feel. He made a comment the other day on an Instagram post about the tragedy of 9/11 and, in passing, placed blame on those who were at the time identified as responsible. His opinion hasn’t wavered: those who were held accountable were those who were indeed accountable. But because he allowed only for the remote possibility that the government may have been aware beforehand (that’s what intel is for, after all), and because he didn’t agree that the government was “behind” the attack — yes, another damning preposition — he was called all sorts of names by those who believed the Bushes orchestrated everything and was told by one person to “eat a d _ _ _, you idiot,” using an eggplant emoji for the word itself. (iPhones have made insults so wonderfully metaphorical.) The common thread is humanity. The editorial board of Biscuit Aisle unanimously believes that the only absolute truth we can all agree on — about ourselves or others — is that humanity is constitutionally flawed. That is why there is mercy. That is why there is grace.

Horripilation

The sound of a fox barking is not what you might expect. Not, at least, what a city kid might expect. It wasn’t the sound of a deer snorting a warning to its tribe of my predation when I was out back yesterday at 3:00 AM under the stars. I well know that muffled staccato of an alert that serves both to make its kind aware of me and gives notice to me of it. It’s what my middle son when quite young sounded like when trying to smell Karen’s coffee, only he did it in reverse. Or a deer stomping. I’ve heard that sound over the years more times than I can count, going back to our childhood at Fire Island, where there were so many deer and so few rifles and cars that my father, tending to his vegetable garden, would see them often within arm’s length and, as he phrased it, “I could have reached out and strangled them. And I wish I had.” During this same childhood and to ward off those deer, he’d request that we ask our barber for hair trimmings from the barber shop floor. He said that the smell of humans repelled deer. (Yeah. No.) So he’d tie up some hair trimmings in old pantyhose — yes, we obliged our father’s request — and, like heads on pikes, place them on top of wood stakes along the garden’s perimeter.

Yet the deer were more fearless than Goths.

You can imagine that in the stillness of 3:00 AM, a moment more like a photograph than a video and under stars that were brighter-than-usual pinpricks in the celestial blanket that covered all those still asleep, when I heard a noise that was unfamiliar — a sharp shriek that punctured the silence — my little hairs stood up. And they really do — my little hairs: on the back of my neck and on my forearms. I can feel them pressing against whatever sweater or hoodie I’m wearing. There’s an interesting and sadly ineffective reason for this. When we’re afraid, adrenaline stimulates the body to pull on the roots of our hairs, making them stand up. The purpose of that is to make us look bigger to the enemy we feel threatened by.

I gave you the interesting part. Now let me tell you the “sadly ineffective reason” part.

The sound I heard was not a deer warning its young or mate. Believe me, as soon as I came inside, which was not long after I heard the noise — defining “not long after” as being the time it takes to Google “What the fuck was that” — I searched for what a deer sounds like when threatened. I got videos of the snort and the stomp and even, when I scrolled down, deer stags with mating calls. I knew then that I’d scrolled past a possible answer. I didn’t find online anything like what I’d heard until last night, when Karen played for me the sound of a fox barking.

I swear to you that yesterday morning, my hair follicles were trying to make me look bigger and more threatening than a small canine that would have been no match for me. (Most likely.)

Sadly, adrenaline didn’t help me stand my ground. It made me want a cup of coffee in front of my laptop.

The baguette’s in the oven

The plan is to make a baguette, and if I want to eat it tomorrow, I must start tonight. I am using a recipe that its creator calls “Baguette (The Easiest Recipe).” In fact, it’s so easy that it’s a “no-knead” baguette. In case you’re wondering, the baguettes to the right are not examples of the “easiest recipe” baguette, which while it requires mixing only four ingredients and saves your forearms from kneading 10-15 minutes, it still takes overnight to rise.

The baguettes to the right are from a different recipe called “French Baguette Recipe,” which takes a total of 30 hours 18 minutes to make. The recipe creator’s online profile photo shows a young American woman who claims to be a “busy twin mom,” but she’s smiling and wearing make-up that’s not smudged, the photo was taken in Paris, and no twins are to be seen anywhere. This means, obviously, that she goes on holiday and stays at the Ritz and drinks champagne from 3 o’clock on, while someone else watches the twins and her husband works two jobs. She totally has a day and a half to make French baguettes.

What makes this latter recipe “French,” you ask?

Certainly one would expect to invest the time and attention to a food that is distinctly French. The model in the above photo looks French and, truth, doesn’t it look at first glance like she’s flipping us off? Seriously: ad directors, photographers with ascots and the French in general are famously subversive and would pull this stunt. After all, it was the French who came up with the linguistically subversive phrase double entendre, even if it was American country music singers who perfected its use in their song titles, like Jerry Reed’s “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft).”

“Oh!” you say. “THAT’s not a double entendre! It’s merely about how much the wife got when she and her no-good husband split. You have a mind as dirty as coal itself.”

To which I reply, Well if it wasn’t a double entendre before, good luck thinking it isn’t one now.

Few things are as comforting as a warm baguette just out of the oven with cold unsalted butter in chunks.

Apropos of that word itself being French and also in the broader category of food, I started using the H-E-B app yesterday for my shopping list. I’d been using the OurGroceries app, but after posting the use of it on my Instagram story a couple days ago, an H-E-B partner sent a message and reminded me that the store app is good not only for finding where an item is or if it’s in stock (previously my main use of it) but also adds those items to a list, organized by aisle number and store location, and even shows where coupons are offered.

This post was drafted on Saturday morning and finished this morning, Monday. The baguettes came out beautifully. I have never had a freshly baked baguette right out of the oven, sliced it and heard the crisp crust give way to a soft, chewy inside. Then spreading cold unsalted butter on it and biting into it, hearing that crisp crunch again.

Superb.